Covid-19 has forever changed how the retail industry used to operate, and the UK retail industry is no exception. Some retailers have been able to turn the tide in their favour during lockdowns. On the other hand, there are those who didn’t adapt and paid the price. Now, almost a year after Covid-19 came to light, the retail industry is facing the question of what it can do to engage retail customers.
Consumers are now engaging over a variety of channels. The list includes but isn’t limited to brick and mortar stores, online stores, and social media platforms. What makes things difficult is that they expect the same personalised experience across all of these channels.
The key factor when it comes to omnichannel strategy is the consistency of the experience. Customers will start interacting with you on one channel but then continue their conversation across different channels. Omnichannel customer engagement is all about streamlining the customer interactions over all of the channels under a single platform, thus engaging them and providing them with a consistent omnichannel customer experience, thus leading to improved customer engagement.
You need to ensure that your customer engagement is personalised across all touchpoints. The early Covid-19 lockdowns made it quite clear that online consumers want personalisation. This led to various retailers incorporating virtual shopping experiences and curated product recommendations.
Bensons for Beds, Ted Baker, and John Lewis are offering video chats with sales staff, thus leading to a personalised shopping experience. Burberry is offering its customers one-to-one virtual meetings with sales associates. This approach is working well for retailers that operate in the luxury fashion space. Why? Because customers of this niche crave personal communication before they make a costly purchase. This is slated to become the new normal for all of the retailers as we navigate Covid-19 since it helps in engaging customers in the retail industry while remaining safety-conscious.
Retailers are generally late when it comes to jumping on the bandwagon. In contrast, the customers tend to move through different trends at a faster pace. However, agile and flexible retailers adapt to these changes, thus can make the most out of any situation.
Before you can adapt to your customers’ needs, you need to identify what those needs are. That’s where your customer reviews are important. You can ask for customer reviews by using SMS marketing, email marketing, or offering certain discounts if the customers would leave a review.
Take the example of Boohoo – a fast fashion UK retailer – that was already selling online but was quick to expand on it. It enjoyed an increase of 40% in its sales in the four months to December 31 2020. It did so by carrying out accurate marketing involving the promotion of new and in-demand categories such as sportswear. Furthermore, it relied on influencer marketing to target a young and tech-savvy audience as part of its customer engagement strategy.
On the other hand, Primark refuses to sell online despite its lost sales amounting to a billion pounds.
When it comes to retail engagement, it’s important to ensure that customers have a good experience. Timely fulfillment of orders is an important aspect of this. Shipping platforms and applications for order tracking keep your customers informed about their order’s status.
Ocado Zoom is a UK grocery retailer that is delivering groceries within a 5 km radius of its West London center. How? By investing in micro-fulfillment centres. Tesco is also building three ’urban fulfillment centers’ that are slated to be completed by summer 2021. They will be built into the stores allowing retailers to cater to a higher volume of orders from the store as well as part of its click-and-collect initiative.
The key to a successful strategy for customer engagement for retail is to cater to your customers’ needs. The needs that have been identified so far include being supportive and empathetic to your customers, being where your customers are by adopting an omnichannel approach, and being agile. However, keep in mind that if your end-goal is engaging customers in retail, it isn’t about incorporating these tips and ideas but about practicing them regularly.
Saaqib Ahmad Malik, content writer and Co-Founder & CEO of KLC Solutions.